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Parenting teenagers is probably harder today than it's ever been.
I remember a friend with older children telling me - in the crazy years when my twin sons were about two - how tough she was finding the teenage years.
"Parenting teenagers is hard!" she said.
How could anything be harder than this? I thought, watching my twin two-year-old tornandos charge around the room. Well, my friend was right, of course. I guess parenting changes from being more physically challenging to being more mentally challenging as our children grow.
Teenagers - especially teen-aged girls (and even pre-teen girls) - now look and sound so confident, are so at home with our sophisticated technology and appear so sexually aware that we are in danger of forgetting that they are still works in progress. It's all too easy for us as parents with our busy lives to be lulled into believing they don't need us anymore. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
The apparent worldliness and self-confidence many teens show to the world hides young people who still have very little experience of the world and who desperately need our guidance to navigate the difficult path from childhood to adulthood.
My husband laughs (and shakes his head alot!) over my tendency to buy a new book whenever we face a new parenting challenge but he does agree that some of the books I've found about parenting teenagers have been the source of some great advice.
I revised all my parenting pages in 2014 when I discovered an approach to parenting which basically knocks all others out of the water, in my opinion. It's called "Peaceful Parenting" and it's an approach which emphasises gentle and respectful ways of relating to babies, children and teenagers. In some ways it's a bit new, although there have always been parents who have parented this way, simply because it made sense to them and they had probably been parented this way themselves.
Even if your children are teens and haven't been peacefully parented from babyhood, I still suggest beginning with PP books. Speaking
from experience, it's amazing how quickly our relationship with our
child and their behaviour can change for the better once we ditch the
judgment and efforts to control them and focus on love and connection.
1. Hold On to Your Kids
This book was recommended to me by a family counsellor and it's brilliant. The book is about how, lacking strong, loving connections to their stressed, busy parents, teens are looking to their peers for direction which interferes with healthy emotional development. The causes of this crucial breakdown of parental influence are explained before the authors, both experts in their field, examine the ways parents can reattach to their sons and daughters and make them feel safe and understood. This book was very helpful to me in working out how to strengthen my relationship with each of my sons.
2. Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain
I'd go so far as to say that this book is a must-read for parents of teenagers and soon-to-be teenagers. Dan Siegel is an American and clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine. In this book, he draws on important new research in the field of interpersonal neuro-biology to explain how the teenage brain functions and how the brain development that takes place between the ages of 12 and 24 years of age affects teenagers' behaviour and relationships. This book is truly transformative and probably the most helpful book I read when my children were teenagers.
3. Raising Drug-Free Kids
This book covers much more than developing the protective factors against drugs and alcohol. It was recommended to me by a family therapist and is well worth reading when your children are young, as well as when they're teenagers as it focuses instead on preventative measures that can be followed early on in a child's life to prevent them feeling the need to use drugs and alcohol later on. Aletha Solter is a developmental psychologist and parent educator and has done a great job in this book of providing parents with simple, easy-to-use tools to build a solid foundation for children to say "no" to drugs. It's organized by age group, from pre-school through young adulthood and includes ways to help children feel good about themselves without an artificial high, cope with stress so they won't turn to drugs to relax, respect their bodies so they will reject harmful substances, have close family connections so they won't feel desperate to belong to a group and take healthy risks so they won't need to take dangerous ones.
4. How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk
Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish have written a number of parenting books and all of them are really worth getting hold of. This one is about parenting teenagers and deals with the real problems of communication between teens and their parents. It offers really solid, practical ideas for dealing with a variety of scenarios and is written in a very easy-to-read style which I loved. I read this book several times when my children were teenagers and highly recommend it.
Here are the chapter headings: